It’s the home of Chris Minick and his family. A longtime singer-songwriter and performer in Western North Carolina, the musician tends to the fireplace in his living room. It’s a cold and windy morning in Haywood County as Minick tosses another log into the woodstove.
“I moved to Waynesville in 1983, just a week after my first Grateful Dead concert,” the 56-year-old chuckled. “I came up here to help my brother refurbish the old Palmer House and turn it into a bed and breakfast.”
And now, some 36 years later, Minick has released his debut album. A collection his own material, “A Place to Go” (recorded by Ray Lyon at Balsam Pillow Studio in Waynesville) is simply a man, his guitar, a harmonica and some melodies to offer to any and all who lend an ear.
“It may or may not appeal to people. Some people like it. Some people don’t think much about it or whatever. But, to me, it’s something I have that I can share that means a lot,” Minick modestly stated. “I was involved in [music] before I was out on my own, before I even had to make a living. And as I get older, it’ll be something I can hang onto to help me feel like there’s something in my life I can do and contribute to the world.”
Originally from Winston-Salem, Minick has been around music as far back as he can remember.
“Really as soon as I got home from the hospital when I was born. We had music in the house. My mom was a piano player. We were involved in the church. We had records galore and listened to records growing up,” Minick said. “When I was 5, my mom got me into the church choir, where I first started learning how to work with other people singing, looking at music and stuff like that. When I was in the seventh grade, I started playing the trumpet, got involved in the hand bell choir.”
But, it wasn’t until Minick picked up guitar the summer after he graduated high school when music really got into his veins.
“I was just in love with a lot of the rock and folk music I grew up with. I was always a little intimidated by [guitar]. I just thought it was beyond me to pick up something with six strings and make something come out of it,” Minick smiled. “I spent years listening to all that music. I had hundreds of songs memorized. And I realized it really wasn’t a big deal to learn a few chords and start putting the chords to the songs.”
At the top of Minick’s musical influences was — and remains — the staggering works of Bob Dylan.
“On the surface, [Bob Dylan songs] sound really simplistic, and some songs of his are, but there’s a lot of other ones that have these nooks and crannies to them,” Minick said. “And stylistically, I could relate to him. I’d hear people say, ‘Ah, Dylan can’t sing.’ But, to me, it was something I could relate to — it was real. It made me realize you had to find your own sound and take that and run with it, because you can’t be somebody else.”
When Minick arrived in Waynesville in the mid-1980s, he soon found himself picking up gigs at Bogart’s Restaurant & Tavern or The Town Pump in Black Mountain. He caught the performing bug, something still pushing the musician to get up there in front of a microphone week-in-and-week-out.
“[Performing] is a release. It’s a natural inclination to want to learn songs you like. And if they have a meaning that taps into a bigger archetypal experience, then it’s a way you can share that with other people and be connected,” Minick said. “[With folk music], I think a lot of it, for me, was the messages in the songs. The fact that people could come up with a fairly simplistic approach to music with such a metaphorical message in a song.”
Leaning back into his living room couch, Minick gazed over at the roaring woodstove. One could sense his thoughts bouncing around the bungalow, off of the artwork, off the bookshelves and, most importantly, off all those records in the corner — countless songs by his heroes that reside at the core of his being and ultimate path.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, music’s the one thing that has been the most ingrained part of my life,” Minick said. “I’ve had a lot of odd jobs and ways to make money. I haven’t been necessarily successful in making music as a career. But, it has been sort of a goal — something still waiting to be achieved.”